female friendships

Friendless in Seattle

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Why would a middle-aged woman not be able to keep a friend?

Read my latest reader query on that topic on The Huffington Post.

 

Reader Q & A: Unable to let go

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene,

About a year and a half ago I broke up with a friend and I'm still not over it. I was hoping you could offer some insight. I’ve known this girl since 6th grade when she stopped speaking to me over some boy. We became friends again in 7th grade but she always needed a new best friend. She moved out of state in 8th grade and made me promise to go to college in her state.

Well, I did move there and got married (she got married too). The four of us would hang out some but she did the same things as she did in elementary school: she'd just stop calling or she would ask for rides or a babysitter when she needed something and we'd be there to help. But if we needed something she'd just whine and complain. We moved a couple times within the same city and she was always negative about were we lived, saying we lived in a bad neighborhood (when we didn't and we had a brand new house).

Finally my husband and I stopped speaking to them because we felt like we were being used. About 3 years later, I started feeling guilty so I called her to see how she was and she was happy to hear from me. We started hanging out again and things seemed all right. I actually helped her to get a job at the same place where I worked with my husband.

My husband and I started to have problems and were considering a divorce. It turns out that she HATED my husband. She kept encouraging me to divorce him and spread rumors about him at work. Apparently she was talking about me, too, and spreading our personal problems to everyone we worked with. It made work very uncomfortable but she denied saying anything. She told me I shouldn't have told her any of my problems if I didn't want them to be known!

I ended up getting my own place and separating from my husband. I was very depressed and could hardly get out of bed. She was always mad at me for not “snapping out of it”. I eventually went to a doctor and got on anti-depressants and starting seeing a therapist, but she kept talking about me, saying that the anti-depressants weren’t good for me. She told me that I needed to convert to her religion to find happiness and get over the depression.

I agreed to go to church with her a few times but after a couple months decided it wasn't the place for me. When I began studying with a Rabbi she began saying horrible things about Jewish people and constantly told me how “sorry” she was that I was going to hell. I ended up moving out of state for a new job and to start a new life: I had planned to remain friends with her and talk to her from out of state.

Once I moved, she started sending me bible tracts and told me that Hebrew was a “bad language” to learn. Then I received an email with childish insults and name calling from both her and her husband. I just couldn't take it anymore and didn't want to fight, or call names so I just stop talking to her altogether. I deleted all the emails I got from her without ever reading them and changed my phone number.  Now she has befriended my mother on Facebook and constantly leaves my mom messages about how great she is. I feel like she's crossed the line by trying to be friends with my mom or she's displaying some passive aggressive behavior.

I feel a lot of guilt over this and feel like it is immature for me to stop being friends with someone. My life has improved A LOT since I stopped being friends with her and my self-esteem has climbed. Should I feel guilty over this? I feel like it is something that some middle school girls would do but I never imagined adults would stop speaking like this. Should I say something to her about being Facebook friends with my mom? Or do I just let this go?

Signed,
Unable to Let Go

ANSWER:

Dear Unable to Let Go,

I hope that by posting your dilemma on this blog and reading it in black-and-white, it helps clarify your answer to the question you posed: Should I just let this go? When other women write about their friendship dilemmas, the answers are often in shades of gray. This one isn’t.

It sounds like your ex-friend has been possessive, self-centered, negative and controlling from the time she was an adolescent and she still hasn’t outgrown it. While you tolerated her for some time, you and your husband appropriately decided to end the relationship. The same attitudes and behaviors you overlooked in middle school were less acceptable when you saw them appear in an adult.

Like most women, you tried to put a positive spin on your friendship when you attempted to renew it three years later. Then your friend began to encourage you to leave your husband, spread rumors about you and your husband to your colleagues, and betrayed confidences about you to people at work. I can’t help but think that she was alienating you from him and your co-workers so she could have you for herself again. Then she tried to dictate your religious beliefs and showed little sensitivity to or understanding of your values or emotions. Besides, people generally don’t “snap out” of a clinical depression.

Don’t you remember you changed your phone number to avoid contact wit her and even deleted her emails? Why would you ever feel guilty for cutting off a friendship like this one? You deserve so much better.

Why would you want to re-friend someone who has been such a negative influence? Yes, she crossed the line by trying to befriend your mom and there is no point in initiating contact with her over this. However, you should let your mother know how nasty your friend has been to you so she doesn’t get sucked in. The rules of friendship on Facebook are often pretty murky but I would think your mother wouldn’t want to maintain a relationship with your ex-friend if she knew how much pain she had caused you.

Clearly, you are feeling happier and more self-confident since you broke off with her. Yet you are guilty and ashamed about separating from a long-time friend. You seem to be tied to they myth that “best friends are forever” but generally, this isn’t the case. Being able to let go, in this situation, wouldn’t be immature; in fact, it would be a sign of your maturity. You need to let go and move on. This woman sounds like a toxic friend.

Hope this is helpful.

My best,
Irene
 

Valentine's Day: Not Just for Lovers

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The first handmade Valentine's Day cards in the 1800s weren't intended only for lovers. They also celebrated affection between friends and relatives.

 

Esther Howland, one of the pioneers of the greeting card industry in the US, was charmed by an ornate English Valentine she received from a friend. So she began a business of importing lace and floral decorations from England and turned them into lacy V-Day cards.

 

Howland advertised in the Worcester, Massachusetts newspaper, The Daily Spy, in 1850, and her business grew so quickly that she had to enlist friends in an assembly-line operation to meet the demand. Her sales are reported to have exceeded $100,000, a handy sum at the time for a female entrepreneur.

 

On February 14th, people in Finland celebrate Ystävänpäivä, which is translated as Friend's Day. In Mexico, it is called the Día del amor y la amistad, the day of love and friendship. Admittedly, the day has been over-commercialized in the US but it still remains a fitting day to express love and appreciation, in whatever way we choose, to the important people in our lives---which, of course, includes our friends.


With love to my husband, son, and my dear friends who sustain me

In memory to my Dad who died on Valentine's Day, 2006

 

(This is an update of a similar post on this blog from February 2008).

 

She's Just Not That Into You: Six ways to know when a girlfriend's a frenemy

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He's Just Not That Into You decodes the rules of heterosexual dating. But the relationship between girlfriends can be just as powerful, irritating, and unfathomable as any relationship with a guy. Here are my six ways for women to recognize when "she's just not that into you."

Read my latest post on HuffPo, SHE's Just Not That into You

 

 

For Better or For Worse: Weddings and Friendship

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Weddings can be taxing to any bride’s friendships. The ceremony and all the planning that leads up to it mark the beginning of an emotionally challenging life transition, and brides-to-be are often placed in the uncomfortable position of having to make choices that can hurt people’s feelings, including that of their closest friends. What are some ways to improve communication, to reduce tension, and to keep things in perspective?

These issues can be so volatile that they can make friendships implode. So I couldn’t think of a better person to talk to about them than my colleague, wedding expert Sharon Naylor). Sharon is the author of over 35 wedding books, including The Bride’s Survival Guide, and has been featured on Good Morning America, Lifetime, ABC News, The Morning Show With Mike & Juliet, and in InStyle Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, Modern Bride, Southern Bride and many additional magazines. She is the iVillage Weddings expert and Planning in Peace blogger, as well as a top columnist for Bridal Guide.

This is the first in a two-part dialogue with Sharon about friendship and marriage.

What are some of the ways that planning and executing a wedding challenge female friendships?

When a bride invites her female friends to be in the bridal party, it’s a huge honor (“I’m one of the chosen ones!” thinks the bridesmaid, activating old memories of wanting to ‘fit in’ and be accepted as part of a group in junior high school). It’s a big validation both emotionally and publicly, since this bridesmaid will walk in an all-eyes-on-you processional as a Near-and-Dear friend.

Make no mistake. No matter how mature a bridesmaid is, there’s still the thrill of being chosen. But here’s where it gets tricky. Being in a bridal party has a service element to it. It changes the whole dynamic of the bride-bridesmaid relationship because there is now a list of responsibilities included in the title. And expenses. And a personality change in the bride, who – to some degree or other – may want more in the way of support from and control over said friend.

In many ways, the friendship takes on a Boss and Subordinate dynamic, depending on how power-hungry the bride gets. Some brides who have felt powerless in their lives before they get engaged take advantage of the All About Me nature of wedding-planning, and their bridesmaids feel the brunt of her neediness. And all Bridezilla behavior is just neediness. Bridesmaids entwined in a circle around a needy, pushy, controlling bride find that the friendship is tested because the bride is a different person while she’s in this role.

Many bridesmaids who have to deal with drama queen or bossy brides say, “If this was the person I met in high school/college, etc., would I have chosen to be friends with her?” When the bride is texting fifty times a day, yelling at friends, complaining about her groom, being disrespectful to her mother and other heinous actions, bridesmaids are often shocked and offended. Where did THIS person come from? It often makes enough of an impression that the bridesmaid not only questions the friendship but distances herself from it. And then the bride gets angrier, feeling entitled to behave any way she pleases, and a nice big wedge is inserted in the friendship.

You’ve addressed some of the ways that brides can become pathological over their great day, what can happen to bridesmaids?

To be fair, there are plenty of bridesmaids who get power-hungry and controlling in the circle of other bridesmaids, having a persona of being the Alpha Female or Queen Bee who immediately divides the bridal party into her In Group and the Out Group, causing all kinds of drama and hurt feelings, not to mention pressure on the bride. Some women just don’t grow out of a juvenile mindset, no matter what their chronological age. They’re troublemakers, and the bride knew it. But she felt she HAD to name her bully sister or best friend to a bridesmaid or maid of honor role, out of a sense of friendship or familial obligation.

A stressed-out bride often blames herself for being ‘a wimp’ and naming that steamroller friend to the bridal party when she wavered over doing so. It can become quite a mess when anyone from the bride to the maid of honor to the bridesmaids do not operate under the Golden Rule, when the circle of honored ladies turns into a rugby scrum for domination. It might be full warfare and social snubbing, or it might be a specific issue such as a power struggle over bridal shower plans.

How does money factor in---particularly in an economy like this one?


Another element of the friendship strain between brides and bridesmaids is the fact that money is now involved. Lots of money. It’s expensive to be a bridesmaid, especially if the bride has pricey tastes in potential gowns or is planning a destination wedding that requires airfare and lodging the couple isn’t covering. The honor of being in a bridal party can put quite a squeeze on your wallet. Especially now.

We’ve all read enough magazines to know that money is a loaded issue, the cause of many fights in relationships. The same is true for female friendships in wedding world. “But you should be willing to spend $300 on the dress I chose for your wedding!” says the bride, feeling entitled to anything she wants or in a misinterpreted comment because a $300 dress is actually on the lowest budget end for formal gowns at a place where alterations are included and accessories are half-priced. See how miscommunication can occur? When a bride requires a bridesmaid to spend hard-earned cash, there’s conflict afoot. With weddings, expenses mount up. It’s not just the bridal shower, the dress, the shoes, and the travel…there are gifts and additional expenses, such as a new dress to wear to the rehearsal dinner. When each unforeseen expense pops up, that bridesmaid may be simmering a fresh dose of resentment toward the bride and groom.

How can a bride minimize these problems (e.g. involving your friends in planning, choosing a maid-of-honor and bridesmaids, asking friends to pay for things they can't afford)?

The most important step a bride can take to minimize ALL of these problems is to remember who she is in her friendships, and be the same person. Realize that being the bride is not a Free Pass to be demanding or to get people to jump when you say so. That said, many brides don’t realize they’re being bossy or demanding. They have a ton of things to do, they’re stressed, they’re experiencing conflict with their parents or their in-laws…being a bride is very taxing, and even the most centered bride can lose focus out of sheer exhaustion.

So all of the bossy behaviors might spring from the fact that the bride is running on fumes, not intentionally treating anyone badly at all. So I suggest that the bride find a way to keep her stress in check, and nurture her friendships by planning regular girls’ get-togethers during which there will be NO wedding talk. If the bride and her friends have always gotten together for Friday post-work happy hour, keep that going as often as humanly possible. Make a note to e-mail your friends on a regular basis, just to say hello and ask what’s going on in their world. This simple step will comfort the bridesmaids, letting them know they haven’t ‘lost you,’ that you’re still in there, and that you care about them as friends, not just for what they can do for you as bridesmaids. The human element is ultra-important when you’re in wedding season with your bridesmaids.

Throughout the plans, make sure you’re taking every opportunity to keep your bridesmaids’ expenses low, searching for sales, letting them know about great outlet stores or craft stores you love. Give them plenty of time to get their tasks done, and when it comes to deadline tasks such as paying their gown deposits, set earlier-than-needed deadlines to allow stragglers to deliver without stressing everyone out.

At the same time, realize that there are some things you can’t control, such as a bridesmaid’s envy or bad behavior. So don’t add fuel to the fire by trying to change her. Just work around her. Communicate with her in the way you always have throughout your friendship, since you know how to handle her personality quirks. This might include saying directly to her, “I’d rather you didn’t criticize the other bridesmaids’ ideas. They don’t know you as well as I do, they don’t understand your sense of humor, and I’d hate for them to get the wrong idea about you. So please just rein it in a little bit when you’re planning with them, okay?”

Always focus on *your* preferences, avoiding saying ‘everyone’s hurt’ or ‘everyone’s mad at you.’ Keep the focus off of the group dynamic or her Outsider Status and just present what you do want from her. And do it as quickly as possible. To the others who may have a problem with her, just say “I’d rather you didn’t focus so much on (bridesmaid’s) attitude. I know she can be a bit blunt, but she’s a very good friend to me – as are you – and I’d love it if you can all just get along for this brief time that you’re working together.”

The bottom line: In all aspects of the wedding plans, think back to what YOU didn’t like about being someone’s bridesmaid, and vow to make the experience better for your friends.
 

Girlfriendology: Inspiring Female Friendships

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Girlfriendology is an online community for women that aims to celebrate, appreciate and inspire women with blogs, a weekly podcast and BlogTalkRadio Show (interviewing inspiring women), contests, reviews, shopping and more.

I was pleased to recently interview Debba Hauppert, the “girl” behind Girlfriendology. She has a background in corporate marketing, is an award-winning author, and has been a television spokesperson and contributed to dozens of magazines. “Girlfriends make us healthier, happier, less stressed, live longer and feel more beautiful so our goal is to help women prioritize and appreciate their friendships,” says Debba.

Why did you start Girlfriendology.com?

After a second girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer, I felt helpless and scared for them and for me. I decided to record my girlfriend love and appreciation in a blog. Wondering why I felt so strongly about friendship, I did research to justify my efforts and time. My search led me to a book that details the need for close social bonds between females (The Tending Instinct, by Shelley S. Taylor). It gave amazing examples of how the need for female friendship is part of our DNA – we actually NEED friends.

That book and the support of a great group of girlfriends energized me to grow Girlfriendology. Girlfriends make us healthier, happier, less stressed, live longer and even feel more beautiful so I somewhat look at Girlfriendology as a public service announcement or even a ‘magic pill’ to making us all live better lives – with our friends by our sides.

What are the most popular posts on your site?

Each month we hold a contest where we request women’s stories about their friendships. These are then recorded in a podcast that is just good girlfriend inspiration! We also share ideas on girlfriend celebrations (like alternative ideas for Super Bowl Sunday with your girlfriends), gift ideas for girlfriends, the podcasts and BlogTalkRadio show interviews with inspiring women (like you Irene!) and more.

What affect has the growth of social media had on female friendships?

I’ve spoken on women and social media to several groups, and work with companies to assist them in reaching women through social media. Research shows that women are social (who knew? Right?!)  and so we’re the future of social media. Some of us are Twitter-buddies (follow me at Girlfriendology) while others are Facebook friends and have reconnected with friends and family on Facebook and other social media sites. Social media can be an excellent way to make and stay in touch with friends. How else would we all be able to share photos of our kids, updates on our adventures and insights into our lives with so many of our friends? However, it can also be overwhelming and may even make them feel isolated because they need face-to-face connection with other women.

Personally, I recommend a good mix of both. Often you can take online relationships offline by meeting your local Twitter friends or contacts from a LinkedIn group at social events or arrange meetings at conferences, etc. You can stay in touch with your local friends and family on Facebook and stay aware of their updates and more. The basics of friendship online or off are the same – to listen, care, assist and support and just be a friend to someone else. That doesn’t change so it’s still just a simple one-to-one connection.

What advice can you give to women who are balancing career, family, and friendship?

One of the goals of Girlfriendology is to inspire women to ‘be the kind of friend they’d love to have.’ We really do HAVE to make time for our friends and to prioritize them. We have to make the extra effort to remember their birthdays, listen - even when we want to talk, go out of our way to make their life better and to tell them how much their friendship means to us. I know that may be overwhelming when we have crazy busy schedules but just a few of the benefits of girlfriends are stress reduction and health so spending time with your girlfriends is very much worth the time and effort.

My girlfriends are very important in my own life. They really do inspire me every day and help me so much with Girlfriendology. Friends are always sharing ideas, contacts for the podcast/BlogTalkRadio show guests, etc. In addition to Girlfriendology, they help relieve me of the stress of being an overly-committed entrepreneur! I meet girlfriends Jill and Becky every week for a coffee date, I email with three college girlfriends every Friday, I connect with dozens of women on Twitter and I try to sneak in some time for walks or talks with other female friends.

What is the most important friendship lesson(s) you’ve learned from your readers?

I’ve learned how friendships make us stronger. Stories submitted to us (through our monthly contest and just through comments on Girlfriendology.com) share sad, overwhelming and amazing tales of women helping each other through huge challenges from cancer to the loss of a child, marriage, partner or job. If not for friends, often we wouldn’t have the strength to go on, but we do, and we find that inner strength often times from a friend who helps us bring it back to life. This alone is a reminder to build friendships. Someday we may really need them or they need us and, if we’re blessed with friends, we don’t have to face hard times alone. That makes a HUGE difference.

Check out Girlfriendology!
 

A "good enough" friend

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QUESTION

Dear Dr. Levine,

I recently got into a fight with a girl named Linda, whom I considered my best friend. She said I was never a "good enough" friend for her, and I told her that I thought I couldn't be her friend because she was spreading gossip about me.

We both agreed that it would be better if we just tried not being friends for a while, but now I'm sad because I don't have my best friend to talk to. Is there a way I could still patch up our friendship?

Signed,
Ariel

ANSWER


Dear Ariel,

All friendships have their peaks and valleys and when times are rough, even the best of friends may say things that are mean, even if they don’t mean them. However, before you decide to patch up your friendship, you need to think about whether you miss your best friend Linda or you miss having a best friend.

If you decide that you really miss Linda, you need to open a dialogue with her about what happened and how it can be resolved. Depending on what feels most comfortable, you can call, email, or text her and tell her how you are feeling (I prefer email because you are less likely to catch the other person off-guard). If she is open to you, this may not only be an opportunity to patch up but to strengthen your friendship.

If she doesn’t respond or, after you make this overture, she still maintains that you aren’t a “good enough” friend for her, you have to accept her decision and find another best friend who appreciates you as much as you appreciate her. Good friends need to value one another.

Let us know what happens!

My best,
Irene
 

Co-rumination: Is it healthy for adolescents to rehash their boy problems?

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Are you a mom who worries because your teenage daughter seems to be incessantly texting or emailing her best friends about her romantic problems? Your worries may be founded.

When adolescent girlfriends rehash the same problems together over and over, they increase their risk of depression and social anxiety. In a study focused on seventh and eighth-graders, Dr. Joanne Davila and Lisa Starr, MA, psychologists at Stony Brook University, studied the effects of co-rumination, first defined by Dr. Amanda Rose (2002) as excessive discussion of problems within friendships---including repeated conversations, conjecture about causes, and heightened focus on negative emotions.

“The abundance of communication technology available to teens today creates an enabling environment for co-rumination,” said investigator Starr in a press release. “Texting, instant messaging, and social networking make it very easy for adolescents to become even more anxious which can lead to depression.”

Conversely, if such discussions are focused on solving problems rather than ruminating about them, these discussions can generate positive solutions and contribute to emotional well-being. The new research findings were published in the February issue of the Journal of Adolescence.

This study builds upon research (discussed in a previous blog post) by Amanda Rose and colleagues at the University of Missouri-Columbia that also challenged the conventional wisdom: that it’s always good for adolescent girls to get problems “off their chest” by talking about them to close friends. Taken together both of these studies suggest that parents need to be alert to too much of a good thing. Hopefully, future studies will examine the effects of co-rumination among other age groups.

Source: Press Release, January 27, 2009, Excessive Discussion of Problems Between Adolescent Friends May Lead To Depression and Anxiety  

 

The Sometimes Friend

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QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I'm in my late 30's and for as long as I can remember (since early childhood), I have always been the "sometimes friend". Usually there are two friends who are inseparable. They are on each other's speed dial, they shop together, lunch together, and their families spend time together. And only sometimes...will they decide to include me. I have never had a "best friend" or someone that I would feel comfortable just calling up for a lunch date or to catch a movie. This leaves me feeling incredibly lonely.

For some reason, I have trouble making a personal connection with people. I am currently a stay at home mom and moderately outgoing. I am very active in a mom's group (two years now) that I really like. We have playdates for the kids and regular mom's night outs, etc.  I think most would say that I'm happy, optimistic, and fun natured, but I can't seem to make that personal connection or cross that boundary into friendship.

There are two women from the mom's group that I do spend some time with. Our families spend Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve together and we do a gift exchange. To me, it's very personal whom I share my family with for the holidays. But, I somehow end up feeling hurt and lonely because I have been relegated to being the "sometimes friend". They talk on the phone, shop, lunch, hang out together and have family events.... and don't invite me.

Should I end these relationships? Or continue with them even though they aren’t fulfilling for me? I feel like my choice is being the "sometimes" friend or having no friends. Also, I worry what my 3-year-old daughter is learning from my lack female bonding. She is in preschool and chooses to play with the boys. I'm worried that by continuing with these type  "friendless" friendships that I’m hurting her ability to learn to bond with other females as well. My worst nightmare is for her to grow up and live her life without a real female friend as I have.

Thanks,
Tara

ANSWER


Dear Tara,

It sounds like your friendships don’t offer the intimacy that you are craving. My guess is that while you are a sociable person and collect acquaintances (and even close friends), you are somewhat guarded and hold back from sharing your true self with your girlfriends. Thus, these relationships never evolve into “best friendships.” We’re all different and being somewhat reserved and private is an aspect of your personality that has been there since childhood.

Maintain these imperfect “sometimes friendships” because you derive pleasure from them; without them, you would be far lonelier than you are now. But you don’t need to choose between being a “sometimes friend” and nothing. Instead, try to take one of these friendships (or any other) to the next level. Make plans to get together with a friend and slowly begin sharing more of your self; my guess it that the boundaries will begin to dissipate over time.

Somewhat related: There is an interesting challenge that’s popular on Facebook these days. One of your Facebook friends sends you this note that reads as follows—Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

I took the challenge and wrote about myself online in a more intimate way than I had before. I found that people responded in kind by revealing more of themselves, and before I knew it, we were closer than before. In short, a sense of intimacy and trust between two people is what turns acquaintances into “best friends.” One caveat, it may not be practical to covet “best friend” status with someone that already has an exclusive “best friendship” but you should be able to accrete a best friend somewhere.

And don’t worry about your 3-year-old daughter yet or project your problem onto her. She isn’t old enough to assess the nature of your friendships or to set her own friendship trajectory. Becoming the best friend you can be will have the added effect of making you are more confident and happy mother. The fact that you don’t want to settle for “sometimes” is already a good sign.

Let us know how it goes.

Best,
Irene
 

Escaping from a toxic triangle

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QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I'm a 40-year-old woman who feels like she's back in junior high. I have three kids who are very involved in sports and activities. Over the last four years, my husband and I developed a group of friends with kids the same ages. My closest friend in the group was a woman named Susan.

Recently we went away with Susan and her DH (dear husband), and another close friend Jenny and her husband. It was a terrible trip. Jenny was pretty much a bore and ruined much of the weekend. She ganged up against me and afterwards, my best friend Susan ignored me for an entire month or more—not answering phone calls, walking away from me at school events, etc. I finally confronted her at a baseball game. She called me names, and said she was tired of defending me to "everyone." I asked her what she meant and she said I was mean and biting.

Susan and I have been on three family vacations together: One was great, but the other two were terrible when Jenny and her family were involved. I can't forgive Susan for the cruel things she said to me and for walking away without giving me a chance to speak. She spent weeks talking about me behind me back—poisoning other friendships with Jenny and even my neighbor. Next thing I knew, she was calling me for rides for her daughter, dropping off Christmas cookies, and baking us bread. She recently asked if my DH and me wanted to drop by for drinks.

I have no desire to befriend her again. Jenny and I started to patch things up after our trip but this weekend, she told me that she wanted me to know that her family and Susan's were going on vacation together this summer. She wanted to know if my family would think about a "separate " house at the beach.

Some days I feel like I'm in some sort of depression. I wish these people didn't bother me, but I feel terribly betrayed. Our kids are all in the same activities and I can't get away from them, I've even considered moving our family to another state. Being made a fool of embarrasses me but I don't intend to suck up to anyone to get them to like me.

I'm having a hard time coping...Thanks for your help.

Signed,
Patsy

ANSWER

Dear Patsy,

The reason why you are having a hard time coping is because these women have either been nasty or have been giving you mixed messages. Sometimes women are blinded to the foibles in their friends for the sake of the kids—until they get clobbered over the head. Because you and your children once enjoyed spending time with these two other families, you may consider these women “friends,” but don’t make that mistake. True friends aren’t petty, cruel, and divisive. You need to find a way to extricate yourself from this adolescent triangle and find friends with whom you are more compatible.

Susan and Jenny have drawn a line in the sand; they plan to keep you at a distance---in a “separate house.’ Is this acceptable to you? If you agree to remain a friend on their terms, you will continue to feel hurt. Opt out of the triangle now. You don’t need to make abrupt changes but begin to treat these women as parents of your children’s friends, not your friends. Let your kids take the lead in determining whether they want to get together with the other kids. I’m not sure how old your kids are but children reach an age when they want to make their own friends anyway.

Begin mingling with other moms and try to put these toxic women in the periphery of your life—downgrade them from friends to acquaintances. I promise you will feel better about yourself. Just because these women are acting like girls in junior high doesn’t mean that you have to play in the their playground.

Best,
Irene

 
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